The survey plane also captures aerial photographs of unprecedented accuracy and clarity, and when combined with the LIDAR data provide a very powerful 3-dimensional tool for use in hazards management.
These products are fundamental to the understanding of marine hazards and are also used to analyse coastal processes, sea level rise, storm wave inundation, sediment movement, and to identify low-lying flood zones. (It also has a range of development uses too such as resource management, conservation, safe navigation, adaptation and development planning.)
A revolution in our understanding
From one survey completed under the project, we now have 100 percent coverage of all of Tuvalu’s nine atoll systems and all of the islands and surrounding reefs and lagoons – around 500 square kilometres in total. Pretty impressive.
An individual home can now easily be identified and its location in relation to the shore and to sea level instantly measured.
It is indeed a historic advance in our understanding, with implications for Tuvalu’s future but also for our understanding more broadly about coastal vulnerability and development priorities in atoll countries around the world.
Analysis of the data is progressing, but in just one example, we now know that during highest measured sea levels, 46 percent of the central built area of Fogafale is essentially below sea level – a fact which directly substantiates Tuvalu’s reports of ever-increasing flooding due to sea level rise in their capital.
The data is already being put to numerous uses.
- The project has used the data to directly brief outer island Kaupule (councils) about safer flood-free zones for building.
- The Government has integrated the data into its national recovery and vulnerability reduction plan for Tropical Cyclone Tino (which by official estimates severely affected more than half the population last January and led to a State of Emergency).
- The data will be incorporated into navigation charts, crucial for safe ship operations and trade (presently there are no updated charts for Tuvalu since the mid 1980s).
- The Department of Lands and Survey is using the data as its baseline for planning and has also incorporated it into its maritime boundaries work.
- The UNDP-supported Ridge2Reef project is drawing on the data to support reef conservation work.
- A World Bank-backed project improving the climate resilience of Nanumaga’s harbour and Funafuti’s port is looking at using the data in their risk modelling around the impacts of storm surges.
Most importantly, the Government of Tuvalu is now basing their long-term adaptation strategy, including bold land reclamation plans, on the data collected.
“The LIDAR data collected by the Tuvalu Coastal Adaptation Project has provided the Department of Lands with the best possible coverage for development planning. In fact, the data is valuable across government departments, providing a tool for adaptation, development, resource management and environmental monitoring needs linked to climate change. Further, it has given us baseline information for each of Tuvalu's island — enabling us to compare with the past and to model the future,” Mr. Faatasi Malologa, Director of Tuvalu’s Department of Lands and Survey.